The Fair AtKenduli
It happened all too suddenly . We had read a lot about this fair but
had never thought that one day we would be able to go there ourselves . The
fair in question is the three-day-long annual festival that is held in the
middle of January at Kenduli village in Birbhum . Kenduli is the birth-place
of the great Sanskrit poet Joydeb . Joydeb's 'Gitagovindam' is a collection
of poems on the divine love between Lord Krishna and Radha . So, the
Vaishnavites consider Kenduli as a place of pilgrimage and visit this place at
this time of the year . Moreover, Joydeb, being the propounder of attaining
salvation through love, is revered by the bauls of Bangla . These bauls are a
mysterious lot . Clad in saffron robes, you will find them wandering from
village to village singing songs, accompanied by their one-stringed instruments.
Their songs are usually allegories that refer to the secret practices that they
indulge in for attaining moksha . And this is the reason for which we wanted to
go there . We wanted to know more about the bauls and their songs .
We reached there on the night of the first day . The fair becomes
More lively after dark, just like the Pujas . Spread in and around the village,
along the bank of river Ajoy, it was so large that, at first, we felt lost
and just drifted along with the tide of humanity that was all around us . In
the middle was the temple of Radha and Krishna . Around it, were shops selling
various kinds of goods . From articles of daily use to fisherman's nets, you
could find them all here . Equally varied was the nature of food being sold .
Then there were the 'aakhras' or the sheds belonging to the various sects of
Vaishnavites . At a distance, the usual 'giant wheel' and 'merry-go-round'
could be seen . At all the aakhras, we saw people dressed in saffron,
singing songs in their high-pitched voices . There were so many microphones
blaring that it sounded like total confusion . After moving around aimlessly
for a while, we finally took shelter in a less-crowded aakhra . There we
listened to songs and then slept .
The morning was beautiful . The mikes were at last dying down . The
fair seemed to assuming shapes and directions with the coming light . And
the temple was towering over all, basking in the golden sunshine . We had a
nice time studying the intricate terracotta carvings on its walls . We were
really tired after a day's journey and a night's adventure . So, we rested
and resumed our 'investigations' in the evening . It was then that we found
what we were looking for . Placed in a remote corner of the fair, were the
closely spaced aakhras of the bauls and fakirs . It was totally different
from the hustle and bustle of the fair and suddenly, in the failing light,
we were transported to a different and mysterious world . That night, we
went back to that place . We had felt somewhat strange there and we wanted
to experience it more . But we could not . We talked to many people from the
cities who had come for the same experience . But we could not get to know
any of the bauls personally . So, when we returned to Kolkata the next day,
it was with a mixed feeling of awe and disappointment . We were reminded of
those lines by the famous baul Lalon Fakir, "...haater kaachhe hoy na khabor/
ki dekhte jao Dilli-Lahore ?..." (why do you go to far-off places like Delhi
and Lahore to see things that are near-at-hand) .